Knox County Health Department will not receive Johnson & Johnson one-dose COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 1:09 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Knox County Health Department said it will not be receiving any doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which was recently approved by the FDA.

According to Charity Menefee, the State of Tennessee’s vaccine distribution plan does not allocate any of the new vaccines to Knox County. Menefee said KCHD will continue to distribute both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as they have been.

KCHD said they did not have a choice about whether or not to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the decision was made entirely at the state level for several reasons.

“To date, the State’s plan does not allocate the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to KCHD -- KCHD has not turned down receiving J&J,” said a statement from a KCHD spokesperson. A reason that the State has not allocated the J&J vaccine to KCHD is related to the storage and handling of the three types of vaccine that are currently available. KCHD has the capacity to handle Moderna and Pfizer, which other providers may not have the ability to do, due to more stringent storage and handling requirements. On the other hand, the J&J vaccine is much simpler to store and handle. Therefore, the other providers who may not have the ability to receive Moderna or Pfizer will have the capacity to store and administer J&J. This allows more providers to come on board and start providing vaccine, which is a critical part of the statewide community vaccination strategy. If the State allocates J&J to KCHD, then we will begin administering this vaccine as well.”

Menefee said there has been no specific news about when a large shipment of new doses could arrive, but officials are hopeful that more vaccines are coming soon after the White House announced they expect to have enough vaccines for everyone by May.

Vaccine eligibility will open up to more Tennesseeans including those who fall under category 1c which includes anyone 16 and older who have certain high-risk conditions including:

  • Caregivers (or household residents) of medically fragile children <16 years old (such as technologically dependent individuals, immunocompromised individuals, individuals with diabetes requiring medication, individuals with complex congenital or life-threatening cardiac conditions requiring ongoing medical management, individuals qualifying for a Katie Beckett waiver)
  • Chronic renal disease
  • COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, Cystic Fibrosis, moderate-severe asthma
  • Obesity (BMI >30)
  • Heart failure, CAD, cardiomyopathies, hypertension
  • Sickle cell (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
  • Cerebrovascular disease or stroke
  • Dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Immunocompromised or weak immune system (receiving chemotherapy, taking daily oral steroid or other immunosuppressant medication, living with HIV/AIDS, history of organ, blood or bone marrow transplant)
  • Technologically dependent (such as individuals who are ventilator dependent, oxygen-dependent, with tracheostomy, chronically wheelchair-bound, require tube feedings, parenteral nutrition, or dialysis)
  • Pregnancy (NOTE: The CDC and World Health Organization have advised that pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women, and women who are pregnant are encouraged to discuss this decision with their medical provider.)

The Knox County Health Department said no one will be required to provide proof of any comorbidities in order to register to receive the vaccine.

Menefee said there are currently already about 24,000 individuals on the waitlist to receive the vaccine in Knox County. Anyone who was previously eligible and added their name to the list will receive the vaccine in the order they signed up.

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